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(506) 2223-1327       Published Thursday, April 2, 2009,  Vol. 9, No. 65      E-mail us
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Long-time Gringo bar closes its doors downtown
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another downtown Gringo institution is fading from view, a victim of rising prices and perhaps lower patronage.

The location is the Nashville South Bar on Calle 5 just a few steps from the west entrance to Parque Morazán. The bar closed for good Monday.

The bar has been a Gringo watering hole for years, and was managed for a long time by the legendary Pat Dunn. In fact, when Dunn opened up a tourist bar in Manta, Ecuador, in 2004, he called the place Nashville South.

Since Dunn ran the show, the bar has passed through a number of owners. Betsy Matthews operated the bar for three years and put it up for sale in 2002.

Its biggest feature after the manikins on the second floor balcony was a big plate glass window that gave a view of those passing by. About two years ago the window broke and never was replaced. The bar was better known for cheap drinks and women who sold their companionship than for ambiance.

At the same time Dunn decided to move his operations to Ecuador, Gringo foot traffic in the downtown began to decline, in part because the Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia began hosting commercial airline flights. Until that point nearly every tourist had to overnight coming and going in San José.

Criminal activity picked up in the downtown, and the Nashville was the scene of a couple of stickups, and there were muggings nearby. Plus the bar never advertised.

The current economic situation and a drop in tourism has stressed a number of downtown operations directed at North American tourists. Some owners complain that the last year has been the worst yet in terms of income. Others point out that Cervercería Costa Rica keeps raising its beer prices.
Nashville South
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez
  A streetwise recycler checks out garbage for
  treasure across the street from the former
  Nashville Bar

Competition with Jacó for tourists also is a factor as are newer establishments west of town and in Santa Ana and Belén.

A strip club on Avenida 1 that Dunn owned for a time has gone out of business, too. Several North American owners tried to operate the business under several names but could never get a following.

Dunn's secret was that he catered to a Costa Rican clientèle. His strip club did its best business selling reasonably priced beer to Ticos on their way home from work in the late afternoon. He believed that Gringo tourists were not here in sufficient numbers to support most businesses.



Immigration appeals process added to text of legislative proposal
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The legislative committee that is studying the new immigration proposal has set up an appeal process for residency and one for refugee status.

The measure reduces the power that the director general of Migración y Extranjería has in allowing foreigners to enter the country or to stay in the country as refugees.

The Comisión de Gobierno y Administración approved a motion Wednesday to create a Tribunal Administrativo Migratorio. It was part of other unspecified reforms that were presented.

The bill is of strong interest to expats because the
original version would increase dramatically the financial abilities a pensionado or rentista would have to show to get permission to stay in the county. In addition, the text of the bill made the amounts applicable to any resident who renewed the permission to stay here.

Olga Marta Corrales, a lawmaker on the panel, said that the tribunal would guarantee an impartial and independent oversight of immigration actions.

Under the current law there is no clear avenue of appeal from decisions made by the director general.

Lawmakers said they are nearly ready to send the immigration bill to the legislative floor for initial discussion.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 2, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 65

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Sharkwater seeks to alert
those who eat the fins

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The producers of the documentary "Sharkwater" want to bring the message home to the Chinese who eat shark fin soup.

The film was made, in part, in Costa Rican waters and has been shown here.

The man behind the movie, Rob Stewart, said that he is seeking donations to a non-profit organization so that the movie can be translated into Chinese.

"Shark populations have dropped more than 90 percent in 30 years, destroying the most important ecosystem for our own survival," said Stewart. "Conservation isn't just saving species and ecosystems, it's saving humans."

Stewart said that Chinese, the largest consumer and trader of fins, may not know of the shark connection. He said the Chinese name of the soup translates as fish wing soup.

Costa Rican fishermen have been catching such fish, and the use of Costa Rica as a collection point for shark fins has been highly controversial.

Another director named
for emergency commission


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The executive branch named a new executive president of the national emergency commission Wednesday. She is Vanessa Rosales Ardón, who will take over April 13, the same day that the current chief, Daniel Gallardo, leaves the job. Gallardo is under investigation for awarding contracts to companies with which he had a relationship.

Ms. Rosales, a civil engineer, has headed a department within the emergency commission and also served as executive director of the agency, officially known as the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias de Costa Rica. She also worked as development manager for Wal-mart Costa Rica.

Ms. Rosales, 47, is a 1988 graduate of the Universidad de Costa Rica.

Money laundering brings
10-year jail sentences


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two men, a Costa Rican and a Salvadoran, have been convicted of money laundering and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The case was heard in the Tribunal de Juicio de Pococi. The defendants were Walter Abarca Ramírez and Eilvi Oquili Lazo Alfaro. The government also confiscated $102,220 the pair were carrying when they were arrested on a highway on June 22, 2004.

The state claimed that the money came from the sale of narcotics and that the men were trying to put the money into the Costa Rican banking system.

Investigators said that they stopped the men because they had had an anonymous tip by telephone about them.

Rules to be published
on telecom quality


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The directors of the Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos have approved a series of rules that establish the level of service and protection afforded telecommunications users.

The three regulations are extensive and were subjects of public hearings in January. They will be published in the La Gaceta official newspaper.

The six regulations also establish ways rates are to be set and how the various telecom companies will connect to the common network.

The rules are necessary because more companies are entering the telecom market that once had the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad as the holder of the monopoly.

The regulations provide a framework for the new  Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones.

Puntarenas routes changed
for those going by ferry


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Those vacationers who plan to take the ferry to Paquera and the southern Nicoya Peninsula will find changes in the traffic routes in Puntarenas. The transport ministry said that the changes are designed to improve traffic flow in Barrio el Carmen in the vicinity of the ferry terminal.

The new routes take effect today, and transit policemen will be in the area to help motorists, said the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes.

Some streets are being made one-way, and the area where cars line up to await boarding has been changed, the ministry said. The changes are being made because heavy use of the ferry is expected for Semana Santa.

Resistant TB alarming
world health professionals


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The director of the World Health Organization says drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis are poised to spiral out of control. She is Margaret Chan, who says out of more than nine million people who are infected with tuberculosis every year, more than half a million contract a drug-resistant variety.

"This is the true alarm bell," she said. "This tells us that resistant strains are now circulating in the general population, spreading widely and largely silently in a growing pool of latent infection."

Last year's rates of drug-resistant tuberculosis were the highest ever recorded. Yet the World Health Organization estimates less than 5 percent of drug-resistant TB cases are detected, and fewer than 3 percent are treated. The disease is particularly widespread in countries such as China, Russia and Brazil.

In addition, 55 countries have reported at least one case of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis. That strain is virtually untreatable. China is second only to India in terms of drug-resistant infections, with 112,000 cases in 2007. In China, 4.5 million people have tuberculosis, and more than 200,000 a year die from the illness.

Chinese efforts got a boost Wednesday, when philanthropist Bill Gates announced a $33-million partnership between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and China to diagnose and treat tuberculosis.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 2, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 65



This probably is an editorial
Geniuses: There are only a few born every generation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

O.K., the ballots are in for the first (and perhaps last) weekly genius award from A.M. Costa Rica. The award goes to the persons who or institutions that distinguish themselves or itself as being in dire need of having their brain fixed.

This week, in third place are Janina del Vecchio, security ministry, and Francisco Dall'Anese, the fiscal general or chief prosecutor, for their stunning performance in the Blame Game a/k/a/ How I let the robbers steal 320 kilos of cocaine from the Golfito courthouse. Maybe instead of holding press conferences outlining why the early morning robbery was not their faults, they should be in Golfito trying to catch the crooks?

This week's second place winner is the judge in Pavas who
let two window-breaking robbery suspects go free Tuesday as long as they sign in every 15 days. The two men, 20 and 21, are accused of breaking windows of cars stuck in traffic and sticking guns in the faces of motorists. Of course, the judge could have had a point. After all, the two men have steady jobs — along the highways of Hatillo, Escazú and Santa Ana.

But the real genius this week who took the top spot in every category is the Alajuela-San José bus driver with the last names of Rojas Chacón, who was picked up Monday when traffic police thought he was driving his bus filled with passengers while he was under the influence of alcohol. A judge let him free, too, but guess what? He's picked up again Tuesday night driving a bus while under the influence of alcohol, traffic police and the Poder Judicial reported. This time he is in jail and not behind the wheel.



All nearly ready
for Heredia route



By the A.M. Costa Rica staff


A new station at the San José end of the new Heredia line almost is complete north of Parque Nacional on Avenida 3.

Workmen have installed a new spur for the passenger train and constructed a covered waiting area, an important consideration in rainy Costa Rica.

Officials are awaiting the arrival of rail cars from Spain, and working daily on the right-of-way. The Heredia line will allow passengers to avoid the continual traffic jams in La Uruca.

No date has been announced for the start of service.
trains and new track
A.M. Costa Rica photos/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
A spur will carry trains to the new, covered station
station work
Workmen continue with the concrete work in the parking area of the station.


Business group wants cooling-off period for ruptured EU negotiations
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Central American business community has called on negotiators to impose a six-month moratorium on discussions with the European Union.

This came after Nicaragua pulled its negotiating team Tuesday from the seventh round of talks in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

The business representatives, the Consejo Empresarial Centroamericano, said that it wants the negotiations to
continue eventually but with certain conditions. Among these is the hope that all countries be represented.

The group said it also wants the interest of all countries safeguarded in the negotiation process.

The two-year-old negotiations seeks to reach something less than a trade agreement. The goal is an association agreement that will include trade and political assistance.

Nicaragua withdrew when its proposal for a slush fund for Central American states was rejected.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 2, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 65


Authoritarians putting more pressure on Internet publishers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S.-based rights group says more governments around the world are trying new ways to control and monitor the Internet.  But its report says even in countries that limit on line access, people are becoming more creative in resisting government-imposed restrictions.

The Freedom House report examined disparities in Internet freedom in 15 countries based on factors such as barriers to access, content and violations to users' rights.

Sarah Cook, assistant editor of the report, said that as the number of people accessing technology has been increasing — in some cases exponentially — the protection and safety of users has been declining.

"You have more and more countries censoring political content, arresting bloggers, sentencing bloggers to prison or taking other kinds of steps like that, that restrict the way in which people are able to use this technology, particularly for communication about political or social issues," said Ms. Cook.

The majority of the countries examined received a partly free ranking including Egypt, Georgia, India, Kenya, Malaysia, Russia and Turkey.

Cuba ranked the lowest overall due to the Castro government's dominant control over access to the Internet.  Three other countries ranked "not free" include China, Iran and Tunisia.

Ms. Cook says these countries use sophisticated technology to clamp down on material authorities find offensive.

"China, Tunisia and Iran, one of the ways they do it is they
centralize the backbone of the Internet system," she said.

"And that centralization is what enables them to filter so pervasively and monitor a lot."

Freedom House did find one bright spot to its report, which is that civic activism is increasing in many of these countries that impose Internet restrictions.  Ms. Cook says users are inventing code words for sensitive topics and organizing themselves through social networking sites.

"There is definitely a sense that as people are trying . . . use this more and more to mobilize, especially in ways that the government may not be too happy about, that you have various different kinds of mechanisms and techniques that these governments are using to try and put a stop to that," said Ms. Cook.

Ko Htike is a Burmese political blogger based in London.  Although Burma is not one of the countries examined in the report, its military government frequently censors politically sensitive Web sites and monitors its citizens.  Htike says he gets about 2,000 hits a day from people around the world, even some from inside Burma, where his site is blocked.  He says Burmese users risk going to his blog because they want information from outside the government-controlled media.

"If someone from inside Burma, if they want to know about the news and about the opposition groups, or whatever it is about the political news, if they want to know that, they have to get it through the blog and read it in the blog," said Htike. "Because inside Burma there is no freedom of expression, there is no freedom of press at all.

Ms. Cook says she would like to see democratic countries make a more concerted and strategic effort to help and support these ordinary online citizens.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 2, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 65


A.M. Costa Rica
users guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages
Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

Searching
The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

Newspages
A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

Classifieds
Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information
A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

Statistics
A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

Contacting us
Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us
Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.

Arrest warrants issued
in Guatemalan bus killings


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Guatemalan authorities with the support of a United Nations-backed anti-crime commission have issued arrest warrants in the allegedly drug-related murders of 15 Nicaraguans and one Dutch citizen traveling on a bus that was forced off a Guatemalan highway last November. 

Attorney General Amilcar Velásquez and Carlos Castresana, head of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, revealed the warrants at a joint press conference Wednesday in Guatemala City. 
 
The officials named 11 suspects in the killings, at least one of them a former police officer, saying they were members of a Guatemalan cocaine and arms trafficking gang that stopped the vehicle in search of illegal narcotics and then killed all of the persons on board before burning the vehicle.   

One suspect is under arrest and others remain at large, the officials announced. They appealed for cooperation from Guatemalan citizens in locating the remaining fugitives. Castresana said the group had international connections and presumed links to public servants. 

The burned bus was discovered in the eastern Department of Zacapa Nov. 8. It had begun its journey in Nicaragua and continued through El Salvador before being diverted shortly after crossing the border into Guatemala, the officials said. 

Since its emergence from a 36-year armed conflict, Guatemala has become an increasingly important transit point for illegal drug shipments between producing countries in South America and the United States market, exacerbating already high rates of violent crime and impunity.   

The U.N.-backed commission, which goes by its Spanish initials CICIG, began operations last year under an agreement between the U.N. and the government of Guatemala.  Its mandate is to help the Central American country fight impunity by assisting in the identification and dismantling of criminal networks.   

Castrana, a former prosecutor and judge of the supreme court of Spain, was named to his position by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.  


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A.M. Costa Rica
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 2, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 65


Latin American news digest
Fighting in Colombia
displacing 600 residents


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Heavy fighting in southwestern Colombia between government troops and leftist rebels uprooted some 600 people at the weekend, the United Nations humanitarian arm reported today.

Members of five Afro-Colombian and native communities have escaped armed clashes in the rural town of El Charco, the area most affected by the mass displacement of 2007 when 15,000 people were forced from their homes.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is monitoring the situation and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has sent an assessment team to determine the basic needs of those who have fled their homes.

The refugees commission reported about two weeks ago that some 2,000 indigenous Embera people were displaced last month from their collective territories in different areas along the Baudó River in the Colombian department of Chocó as a result of threats and conflict between two illegal armed groups.

In addition, more than 1,000 Embera were displaced in March in the Upper Baudó region in southern Chocó, along Colombia’s Pacific coast.

According to commision, at least 27 different indigenous groups are considered to be at risk of extinction in Colombia, largely as a result of armed conflict and forced displacement. Their survival depends greatly on being able to remain on their traditional lands.

The rebels are the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia.

Embassy closed for holiday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Thursday, April 9, and Friday, April 10, are holidays in Costa Rica and the U.S. Embassy, continuing its tradition of being closed for all Costa Rican and U.S. holidays, will be closed those days.

Other embassies also are expected to close, but there have been no other announcements.


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